Understanding Solar Technology: Active versus Passive Design

The goal of all solar technology is to capture the heat generated by the sun and convert it into usable energy. Solar energy can be harnessed to effectively power residential and industrial heating and cooling systems, and any other system that currently relies on electricity for its power source. Technology to harness the power of the sun can be either passive or active in design, and either can be effective in making a home or business more energy-efficient.

Passive Solar Energy

Passive solar technology does not require the use of specialized mechanical devices or equipment to convert the sun’s energy to power. Greenhouses and sunrooms are examples of passive designs. The sun’s rays pass through the windows, and the structure’s interior absorbs and retains the heat. Homes, offices and industrial buildings can be designed with passive solar systems in mind, in order to gain the most benefit. Installing a large number of windows, particularly on the south side of a building, can provide a significant boost in energy absorption. This may reduce the need for lighting and winter heating.

Other passive energy technology design techniques include certain types of landscaping and using overhangs to contain the sun’s heat. Insulation can make passive systems more effective, as they can help hold in the heat or block out the cold, to provide extra warmth in the building.

Active Solar Energy

Active solar energy systems use various electrical and mechanical components to capture and convert the sun’s energy. These systems typically include photovoltaic panels, collectors, voltage controllers, blowers and pumps that work together to process the sun’s usable heat. An active solar system may also have batteries that store the collected energy for later use. The energy the system harnesses can be used to generate electricity and heat for the building. The familiar rooftop panel arrays that are rapidly becoming ubiquitous across the United States are active systems.

Choosing Passive or Active Solar Design

When considering the energy efficiency of a home, office or industrial building, passive solar design strategies can result in significant power and cost savings. Using specialized construction and landscaping techniques can optimize the natural energy of the sun to regulate and control building temperature. Active equipment can then be added to achieve additional energy savings, or even to make a building completely solar-powered and off the grid. As a result, you can enjoy freedom from sky-high power bills and end your reliance on municipal power providers. Using both active and passive technology in combination is the key to energy independence.

Solar energy can be used effectively in any home, office or industrial building. If you are interested in learning more, contact Intermountain Wind and Solar today. Serving Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, their experienced team can help you understand all of your solar technology options.

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